10 Apr Homeless Veterans & COVID-19 — A Growing Crisis
Homelessness among veterans has always been a matter of concern. Despite charitable organizations and the Federal government trying to overcome this issue, not much has changed. Unfortunately COVID-19 pandemic is worsening this crisis. Congress must come up with a solution in the next phase of a relief package.
It is worth mentioning that the Veterans Administration (VA) partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the nonprofit sector, and the state & local governments to fight veteran homelessness. Due to such efforts, in some municipalities, veteran homelessness has been finally eliminated. These aren’t small cities; they include localities such as Houston and Arlington, Va. But if Congress doesn’t come up with a better solution, all these positive changes will amount to nothing.
In March 2020, the veterans’ unemployment rate rose to 3.8 percent from 3.1 percent in 2019.
More than ten million Americans have already filed for unemployment. The Federal Reserve predicts the unemployment rate to go as high as 32 percent, with around 67 million Americans employed in jobs deemed high-risk for layoffs.
This will lead to a lot many foreclosures and evictions. The veteran population is also at severe risk of finding themselves unemployed and homeless in the coming days. Only a significant and rapid investment at the VA and HUD will allow us to help them.
An increase in veteran homelessness is a certainty. Congress must come up with radical measures to deal with this disaster. It should provide funding to match the demand for housing vouchers fated to increase under the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
Congress should also modify existing legislation to allow veterans facing COVID-19 related foreclosures to utilize this program. Additionally, Congress must provide a significant increase to the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment programs.